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Book Review: Lauren Conrad’s L.A. Candy a candy-coated la-la land

BY ELLEN HARRIS | JUNE 24, 2009 7:21 AM

Lauren Conrad is a beautiful girl. She hasn’t done anything exemplary with her life, but at least she has looks going for her. Her five-season stint on MTV’s “The Hills” saw her long curls transform from bleached blonde into honey-blonde, her face go from cute and round to defined and refined, and her “career” from fashion-school intern to … fashion-school intern.

But now L.C. can add “Celebrity Author” to her résumé — right behind “Speidi’s Arch-Nemesis.”
L.A. Candy, Conrad’s first novel in a supposed series of three, follows 19-year-old Jane Roberts and her friend Scarlett Harp as they adjust to their new, young-adult lives in Los Angeles. Oh, and adjust to being turned into the stars of their own reality show. Sound familiar?

Jane, clearly modeled after what must be Conrad’s idealized perception of herself, works as an intern for a high-maintenance, high-profile event planner, and Scarlett, carefree and “exotic but not too exotic” in appearance, takes freshman courses at the University of Southern California. Jane still struggles to get over her ex-boyfriend, Caleb, while slightly skanky Scarlett brings home new boys every night.

Of course, there are troubles along the way — unpredictable boy behavior, difficult employers, and (as always) the overwhelming struggle to stay true to oneself.

Sales figures won’t be determined by literary content, as far as L.A. Candy is concerned. The name “Lauren Conrad” sells books. After all, her name is four times as large as the title on the cover. Guess whose publicist made that decision.

Conrad’s sins as an author are many, but most notable is her inability to define her characters’ internal voices. From chapter to chapter, Conrad switches between the third-person narrations of Jane and Scarlett. “Jane walked,” began one chapter; “Scarlett looked,” stated another. Second-grade sentence structure, folks.

The dialogue is peppered with “likes” and “ums” and an abundance of ellipses, mimicking Conrad’s, like, daily vocabulary precisely. Text messages and phone calls make up a majority of interpersonal communication, because face-to-face conversations are so passé. The characters describe themselves as an objective third-party observer might:

“Jane Roberts leaned against her dresser, studying the way her white silk nightie looked against her sun-kissed skin. Her loose blond curls cascaded softly over her shoulders as she pretended not to be interested in the guy in her bed.”

And that was just the novel’s first paragraph.

Though blatantly lacking in originality, the concept behind the novel is perfectly suitable. How many times have students heard a professor say, “Write what you know.” This star-studded, shopaholic, sunny life is all Conrad knows. In that respect, she was the most qualified person to write L.A. Candy.

However, seeing as she lives in a town filled to the brim with struggling, overly qualified writers, Conrad might have considered doing herself a favor and hiring one of them to ghostwrite this novel. If she’s smart, she’ll phone a friend (not one of her “Hills” friends, mind you — someone with a brain) and outsource the remaining creative work in her book deal.

And should Hollywood decide it needs more of its MTV darling spiking through the airwaves, the public should pray that Conrad was merely the inspiration and not the content director or creative producer.

L.A. Candy is an insult to the few people still read books for the sake of reading books. No wonder the literacy of this country is crumbling around us — Conrad’s cute-guys-buying-cute-girls-drinks theme goes further toward the decimation of literature than any zealous book burning ever did.


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